The Internet of (Incompatible) Things

Internet of Things.ForbesOne of the scourges of technology for small and mid-size businesses, is how compatible technologies and systems often become incompatible over time. As IT professionals and business owners, we have all seen this happen. An operating system update “breaks” your backup software, which you upgrade only to find out your older tape drive is no longer supported.

As we enter the age of the Internet of Things (“IoT”) in which nearly every device will be connected, expect to see more of the same, only different.  In fact, it is happening already.  In February 2015, we received a Moto 360 as a demo unit. A few of our Android users tried it out and connected it to their phones. Preferring other devices, the Moto 360 ended up in the hands of an iPhone user.  No connection; no support until Android Wear for iOS was released.

Or so we thought. Android Wear required an iOS upgrade that would not fit on the iPhone 5. An upgrade to an iPhone 6S and the latest version of iOS should do the trick. Except the Moto 360 is not compatible with the iPhone 6 phones. Moto 360 support ended with the iPhone 5.

Historically, operating systems and equipment in the PC world had roughly a 3 year life cycle between generations. In the post-PC world, hardware generations are running between 12 and 18 months with major operating system updates and versions every 6 to 9 months.

As we increase the number of attached and connected devices in our workplace and our personal lives, the speed at which compatibility is lost seems to be accelerating.

To be fair to consumers and businesses, device and software manufacturers should publish their compatibility policies. For example, Google could set a policy that their devices will be kept current with only 2 generations of hardware and/or 3 generations of each mobile operating system. This type of transparency will enable businesses to purchase with a forward looking view and accurate expectations. Vendors will benefit as well, as companies may elect to purchase higher end products with a longer shelf life